Sunday, April 29, 2018

Hollow Triumph

This week's selection on TCM's Noir Alley was Hollow Triumph, a movie that was new to me. It was re-titled The Scar in a re-release, and is available on DVD and Blu-ray under that title, although the print that TCM ran had the original title.

Paul Henried plays John Muller, who at the beginning of the movie is just getting out of prison after serving time for an extensive series of crimes he's committed. The prison warden has gotten him a job out in Los Angeles, but John isn't so certain he wants to live his life that way, especially when he sees his partners in crime and finds that they're making rather better money than he's going to be making.

He gets the idea rob a shady gambling joint. The joint itself is probably illegal, and naturally they wouldn't want to be robbed even if they were wholly on the up-and-up. Still John and his men rob it, but things go wrong when the lights aren't turned out as early as John had planned. Half the guys get killed, but John is able to get away, only to have to face a life on the run. At least that nondescript job isn't a place the guys he robbed would think to look.

Sure enough, John's brother Frederick (Eduard Franz) shows up to tell John that the other guy who escaped was gunned down in Mexico, so obviously the bad guys are on his trail; Frederick correctly assuming that his brother went straight back to his old life of crime. John correctly knows there's really no place where he'll be truly safe, but he remembers something....

Not long after the robbery, he was stopped on the street by a man who said he looked amazingly like a Dr. Bartok -- except that Bartok had a scar on one side of his face or the other. So John goes to look up said doctor, and meets his lovely secretary Evelyn (Joan Bennett). Those two fall in love, but John is all the time thinking of another plan, which you can probably guess: if he could make himself up to look like Bartok, perhaps he could get away from the guys chasing him. And since he studied psychiatry, the same field as Bartok, before his life of crime, there's just a chance he could take Bartok's place.

Of course it's a nonsense scheme, as trying to take somebody's life is nigh-on impossible. There are all sorts of things that you're just not going to know about the other guy. Is he married? What are his outside interests? What are the names of his friends? If he were on the run on the east coast and passing himself off as Bartok, that might be one thing, but killing Bartok and taking over the practice? Idiocy.

Some movies work on such an implausible idea. Dead Ringer had Bette Davis playing two estranged sisters, so the murderous sister knew a fair amount of the other one's life, if not all of it. In Hollow Triumph, however, it's just ludicrous. And the fact that John scars the wrong side of his face is foreshadowed and then given away so clumsily. Yet nobody seems to notice it!

Fans of noir who are looking for something new may enjoy Hollow Triumph, but I found the whole thing maddening.

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